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comment by lil
lil  ·  1891 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Hubski feedback/ feature request - follow others' block lists

Hi hyperflare - met you last night on IRC.

I have a lot of problems with people who "play" devil's advocate, although there are occasionally good reasons to do it. Interesting discussion here on the whole topic.





thewoodenaisle  ·  1891 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Here's the perspective of someone who loves playing devil's advocate:

1. I will play devil's advocate if someone mischaracterizes the opposition's arguments. To me, it is intellectually dishonest and poor form to argue against a shitty caricature or strawman of whatever it is you disagree with. It is not fair to the other side, who are not there to defend themselves from terribly constructed arguments lobbied at them.

2. Sometimes, I'll mentally construct arguments in the same way mathematicians formulate proofs. I'll select a bunch of axioms/postulates/assumptions/etcs and go, "Well, I have collected a bunch of axioms/postulates/assumptions/etcs. Let's see what comes out of it." And I'll construct an argument that's hopefully logically consistent. But is my argument truly logically consistent or do I merely believe and wish it were so? Eventually, I'll need input from other people to proofread the argument, so to speak. So what does playing devil's advocate have to do with this? Well, the assumptions I've chosen are not necessarily ones that I personally believe in. I treat the whole thing as a form of mental exercise to keep the mind sharp. And if those assumptions are ones that I disagree in and, in fact, believe in the opposite of, that runs into devil's advocate territory.

3. Playing devil's advocate of the opposition allows you to find weaknesses and holes in their argument, and, in general, "feel the rhythm" of the argument. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? If done right, playing devil's advocate also means finding counterarguments to the devil's advocate. And what do you know, the counterarguments of a devil's advocate are the counterarguments of your couterarguments ie your arguments.

4. I use playing devil's advocate as a measurement of how much I grasp the opposition's arguments. The shittier my devil's advocate is, the shittier my grasp of the opposition's argument is, which casts doubt on how strong my actual arguments are. How can I be so sure of my arguments if my grasp of the opposition's argument is weak and flimsy? Because if my grasp of the opposition's argument is weak and flimsy, then what's more likely is that I haven't truly thought deeply of an issue rather than me being far smarter and better as a person than them. "They only believe in X because they're assholes" is never a good sign.

lil  ·  1891 days ago  ·  link  ·  

In discovering where one stands on an issue, it is a good idea to thoroughly explore both sides, even the one that doesn't have your sympathy at the moment. Your reasons seem like good reasons. Sometimes I suppose it's a good idea to look for the DA arguments before someone moves ahead with a decision -- especially if they honestly say, "Let's examine all the arguments in this case." I concede. I'll give the devil's arguers their due.

hyperflare  ·  1891 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Should I comment on that here or in the original thread?

lil  ·  1891 days ago  ·  link  ·  

here please. Will check much later. Have to leave the hub for now.

hyperflare  ·  1891 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Okay, so I'm not a big fan of the orginal linked article, at all. It's needlessly combative in my eyes and seems to be an outlet for the author's frustrations with people asking their opinion on stuff, because they are the expert on such stuff (in this case feminism).

The examples mentioned in the article are people who are merely pretending to play devil's advocate to mask their opinions. So yeah, those people suck and should ask themselves why they feel the need to hide their own opinions.

    It is incredibly painful to feel that in order for you to care about my safety, I have to win this verbal contest you have constructed “for fun.”
That's where I get the feeling the author doesn't understand or care what playing devil's advocate means. I'm already convinced that feminism is the right thing. I already care about your safety! If I choose the have this discussion it's because I think I can learn something from you. That's a compliment! If you don't feel like that discussion will benefit you too, I won't be upset if you walk away (except if you do this to avoid questioning your beliefs - but the difference between that is generally pretty obvious).

I mean, I don't deny I'm priviliged. My parents were immigrants to this country, but my own life has never been anything but pleasant. I usually stay the fuck away from anything to do with racism and feminism, because to me those are "solved" problems in that I'm pretty convinced I know what's wrong and needs to be changed (don't be racist, don't discriminate women - it's not hard). I don't really feel the need to wade into the shitfest those issues have become (or always been?). Not to mention that that stuff tends to be very... americanized? I have the feeling we handle that stuff completely different in europe, but that might just be online/IRL-dissonance.

I notice you put the "play" in quotes. I take it you don't like how it makes discussion into a game that one tries to "win"? That's a fair argument. I personally like discussing for sport, but I take care to only involve people I know enjoy it as well (or those I want to piss off if I'm feeling uncharitable). I've learned over time that the vast majority of people don't want to discuss their views. I think that's pretty appalling and makes the world a worse place, but it's their choice, not mine. I gotta respect that. Also I can argue with internet strangers all I want these days so it's all good.

In the end it always comes down intention. You can be DA for lots of reasons. You can pretend to be one to mask your actual opinion (dishonest). You can do it to "win" (not really discussing, merely one-upmanship), or you can do it out of a genuine desire to understand the issue at heart better, via reflection from people with unique viewpoints. If I have to pretend to believe something I don't to get that going, I will. And I don't fuck around - I'll defend that position as if it were my own, because only if an opinion can hold its own in an honest and informed discussion is it an opnion worth holding.

lil  ·  1891 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    If I have to pretend to believe something I don't to get that going, I will. And I don't fuck around - I'll defend that position as if it were my own, because only if an opinion can hold its own in an honest and informed discussion is it an opinion worth holding.
yes, definitely. And opinion should be backed up with evidence so that all people in the discussion can consider and weigh the evidence.

I'm also not questioning that some people genuinely enjoy an interesting intelligent argument, the way I enjoy playing FB Scrabble with someone who truly challenges me -- not someone who will play the first word they see. My problem is here

    If I have to pretend to believe something I don't to get that going, I will....I'll defend that position as if it were my own,
In that case you are truly "playing" DA for the game.

I'm just saying, (as I say further down in the comment post that I linked) that I can't be invested in that conversation if I'm not getting your genuine thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, but that's just me. I'm sure you're in good company with others who enjoy hearing and debating all sides, even ones that are not sincerely held.

Thanks for your reply.

hyperflare  ·  1883 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Well, on the internet I usually don't have to DA, so that shouldn't be a problem.